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Terry McLaughlin: Hyde Amendment survives, for now

Terry McLaughlin | Columnist

October is Respect Life Month and a good opportunity to reflect upon our personal convictions regarding the value of human life from conception until natural death.

On the one end of the spectrum is the life of an unborn child, which is tangled up in the discussion of women’s authority over their own body. This debate has gotten even messier with the current questions about vaccine mandates and the meaning of “my body, my choice.”

At the other end of the spectrum are issues such as the morality of the death penalty and the ethics regarding euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Rather than calm and deliberate discussion of the merits and pitfalls of the individual issues, each one of them has become a political hot potato fraught with heightened passions, making honest and open debate in pursuit of areas of agreement very difficult.

We have heard a lot in the last few months about the Hyde Amendment, a significant piece of legislation named after Henry Hyde, who represented Illinois’ 6th Congressional District from 1975 to 2006. It is an amendment that has been appended to every appropriations bill since 1976, which clearly states that taxpayer dollars may not be used to fund abortions. The Hyde Amendment does not prohibit or limit abortions. It only mandates that taxpayers will not be burdened with paying for them.

One of the most important facts about the Hyde Amendment is that it has been passed every single year since 1976, regardless of which political party was in power. It has truly been a bipartisan amendment, and while there have been some pro-abortion Democrats who have wanted to get rid of the amendment over the years, there has always been a large enough consensus from both parties to ensure that spending bills were protected by it.

Until now.

Throughout his decades in the U.S. Senate, President Joe Biden has been a dedicated supporter of the Hyde Amendment, but no more. During his most recent bid for president, perhaps under pressure from pro-abortion party leaders, Biden campaigned that he would work to abolish the Hyde Amendment.

To rub salt into the wound for many pro-life Americans, the two most prominent figures most publicly advocating for the end to the Hyde Amendment are also the two politicians who most conspicuously tout their Catholic faith: Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

Under President Biden, the House Appropriations Committee advanced an appropriations bill that conspicuously lacked the Hyde Amendment. Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma attempted to introduce the amendment, but the Appropriations Committee voted 32-27 against Cole’s amendment and shortly thereafter the bill was approved in a 219-208 party line vote by the full House of Representatives.

This marks the very first time in 45 years that the House has passed a spending bill without the life-protecting amendment.

In addition to removing the Hyde Amendment protections, the House Appropriations Committee also stripped the appropriations bill of the Weldon Amendment, which has been included in spending bills since 2005 and prohibits government funds from being used by programs that discriminate against health-care workers who object to participating in an abortion.

This vote is completely out of step with the will of the American people, a majority of whom oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund elective abortions, including 65% of independents and 31% of Democrats, according to a January Marist poll. Likewise, a majority of Americans support conscience rights for individual health-care workers.

Fortunately, the passage of the appropriations bill in the House was not the end of this story. After passing in the House, the appropriation bill went to the Senate, where Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma introduced a resolution amendment that protects against taxpayer funding of abortion.

At 11 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, his amendment to prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for funding abortions and abortion-related discrimination narrowly passed the Senate by a vote of 50 to 49, thanks to pro-life Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also voted for The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Protecting Individuals With Down Syndrome Act.

Even though the attempt to gut the Hyde Amendment failed this time, congressional Democrats are now pushing the misnamed “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which would prohibit existing laws that regulate the abortion industry, ban informed consent requirements, and imperil policies such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Hyde Amendment.

This is a good time to reflect on the words of Henry Hyde, author of the life-saving Hyde Amendment: “When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates; you are there alone standing before God and a terror that will rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world, but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him because he loved us,’ and God will look at you and He will not say, ‘Did you succeed?’ but rather, ‘Did you try?’”

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.


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